Keys to a long life: expressing yourself, being optimistic, and having a laugh

New research further supports the notion of a longevity personality, finding that people who are optimistic, easygoing, social, and enjoy having a good laugh live longer than their more neurotic counterparts.

Israeli researchers who have been trying to decode the "longevity gene" announced new findings this week that personality traits such as being outgoing, optimistic and easygoing, enjoying laughter and staying engaged in activities may be a crucial part of the mix.

The findings, published online in the journal Aging, come from Einstein's Longevity Genes Project, which includes more than 500 Ashkenazi Jews over the age of 95 and 700 of their offspring. "Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews were selected because they are genetically homogeneous, making it easier to spot genetic differences within the study population," according to a statement from the researchers.

"When I started working with centenarians, I thought we'd find that they survived so long in part because they were mean and ornery," said Nir Barzilai, M.D., the Ingeborg and Ira Leon Rennert Chair of Aging Research, director of Einstein's Institute for Aging Research and co-corresponding author of the study. But, "we found qualities that clearly reflect a positive attitude towards life," he adds. "Most were outgoing, optimistic and easygoing. They considered laughter an important part of life and had a large social network. They expressed emotions openly rather than bottling them up."

"Some evidence indicates that personality can change between the ages of 70 and 100, so we don't know whether our centenarians have maintained their personality traits across their entire lifespans," continued Barzilai.

A few other factors can play into your healthy longevity -- the most essential being good genes. A massive genetic study, published in Science, found that people who lived to extreme old ages had one of 19 different gene profiles and tended to be unusually healthy, free from the diseases of aging, such as heart disease, cancer, and dementia, until well into their 90s.

When it comes to aging, you can't control your genes (or your personality for that matter), but a few things you can control include lifestyle habits, such as enjoying the companionship of your friends and family and getting 30 minutes of physical activity a day, experts say.